More ship bodies found, new drama in capt. transcript
GIGLIO, Italy — Rescuers pulled five bodies clad in sodden life vests from the partly sunken cruise ship Costa Concordia on Tuesday, bringing the death toll in the disaster to at least 11, as Italian media published transcripts of a screaming match between the coast guard and the ship’s captain, who fled to a life boat after he smashed the vessel on a reef.
Publication of the transcripts added a dramatic new dimension to the accounts of the accident Friday night, when Capt. Francesco Schettino, 52, apparently tried to show off the gleaming $450 million vessel to residents of this island off the coast of Tuscany, and in the process ripped a hole in its hull. The ship quickly began to list heavily to starboard as panicked passengers and crew made pell-mell escapes, evoking images of the Titanic’s final moments.
“Go up on the bow of the ship on a rope ladder, and tell me what you can do, how many people are there and what they need — now!” Gregorio Maria De Falco, a coast guard officer, said to Schettino by telephone as the captain bobbed in a lifeboat, as revealed in audio recordings published by Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian newspaper.
“All right, I’m going,” Schettino is heard to reply.
The recordings and transcripts suggested that the coast guard officer was stupefied that Schettino had vacated the ship before accounting for all 4,200 passengers and crew on board. They also indicate that the captain did not know that people had died and had asked the coast guard officer for an accounting.
“You are the one who has to tell me how many there are! Christ!” the officer screams at the captain in response.
Prosecutors and the cruise line that owns the ship have blamed Schettino for the wreck, saying he deviated from the course plotted in advance for the ship. Schettino has said he hit an uncharted rock.
Late Tuesday a judge decided to free Schettino from police custody but ordered him placed under house arrest at his home in Sorrento, Italy, about 250 miles south of the shipwreck site. Criminal charges including manslaughter and abandoning ship are expected to be filed by prosecutors in coming days.
News, photographs and video from the shipwreck have sent shudders through the global cruise industry at the most important time of the year for vacation bookings.
In a sign of growing concern, Micky Arison, chief executive of the Costa Concordia’s parent company, Carnival Corp. of Miami, the world’s largest cruise line operator, issued a statement on Tuesday expressing grief at word of the newly discovered bodies. Arison also disclosed that Carnival had sent its own senior technical experts to Giglio “to provide additional support for this tragic and highly unusual incident.”
The recovery of the five bodies Tuesday came after rescue crews blasted holes into the stricken vessel’s hull to open up new access and escape routes.